Judge Finds Pit Bull Owner Guilty of Assault
The owner of a pit bull that mauled an animal control officer in Glassell Park two years ago was convicted in Los Angeles Superior Court Thursday of assault with a deadly weapon--her dog.
Superior Court Judge Marsha N. Revel, hearing the case without a jury, found Edlyn Joy Hauser, 38, guilty of assault, but the judge acquitted the sobbing defendant of having a specific intent to cause great bodily harm.
Ruling minutes after the completion of final arguments, Revel said evidence had persuaded her that Hauser had intended to scare television crew members who had come to her house on June 22, 1987, to film her 55-pound pit bull. The dog, named Benjamin, had bitten two people the night before, an attack that came during a time when reports of pit bull incidents were rampant in the news media.
The judge noted that Hauser had gone inside her house after telling the crew from KCBS, “Benjamin is coming out. So, if you don’t want to get bitten, you better get out of here.” In the meantime, an animal control officer had arrived to investigate the previous attack. Revel said the dog owner apparently changed her mind about sicking the dog on the television crew, but it was too late.
Camera Captures Attack
The television camera captured what happened next.
Benjamin charged past his owner standing in the doorway and attacked city Animal Control Officer Florence Crowell, 35, crushing a bone in her hand and biting her chest. She was hospitalized for five days for treatment of her injuries.
“The court doesn’t feel that Miss Hauser had any ill will to the animal control officer,” Revel said. “But she did have ill will . . . to the media people who were still there.”
Hauser’s lawyer, Bruce Margolin, argued that his client’s cries of “No, Benjamin! Stay! Stop!” proved that she was trying to stop her pet’s attack. He said that the pit bull unexpectedly ran past Hauser, despite her attempts to stop the dog.
“It was an unfortunate accident,” Margolin concluded.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Sally Thomas played a tape of Benjamin’s attack, maintaining that if Hauser had wanted to keep Benjamin inside she would have put the dog in a room instead of allowing him to approach the front door.
“I would say the dog was doing exactly what she wanted him to do,” Thomas said.
Since the attacks two years ago, Benjamin had been kept in a Department of Animal Regulation shelter, awaiting a possible hearing over whether he should be destroyed.
Hauser is scheduled to return to court on Sept. 7 for sentencing.